Expansions (& Side Stories) vs Living World? — Guild Wars 2 Forums

Expansions (& Side Stories) vs Living World?

Ashantara.8731Ashantara.8731 Member ✭✭✭✭
edited February 23, 2019 in Guild Wars 2 Discussion

Living World episodes differ a lot in quality, don't they? Sometimes maps are great but the story content is bad, sometimes the other way round. Sometimes events are fun and sometimes they are not. Sometimes the story knocks you off your feet and sometimes it just makes you want to bang your head against the wall. There is a distinct lack of consistency with LW content, and a full season rarely feels satisfying because its episodes don't go well together in regard of their quality: the writing (i.e., its presentation, dialogue, plot consistency etc.), story length, story missions and their level of challenge and innovation, cinematics, map content and design, as well as achievements.

That's why I believe that Expansions are preferable: you have one team working on one, and as a result the elements all fit together and you get a full-fledged, (mostly) polished product. I don't mind waiting for expansions, the time in between could be filled with frequent Side Story releases (which are always tons of fun to do) instead of LW episodes. (Also, old content could use some polishing-up.)

I would like ANet to reconsider their approach on the type of content they spend their resources on. In my honest opinion, Living World has proven to be a disappointment overall. You impatiently wait for the continuation of the story, don't know what to expect, and often end up feeling let down by the results of what, no doubt, was the fruit of hard labor on the devs' end. The rush in releasing episodes ASAP as well as the inconsistency due to different teams working on them does not seem to be a good utilization of said resources.

Comments

  • cptaylor.2670cptaylor.2670 Member ✭✭✭✭

    @Ashantara.8731 said:
    Living World episodes differ a lot in quality, don't they? Sometimes maps are great but the story content is bad, sometimes the other way round. Sometimes events are fun and sometimes they are not. Sometimes the story knocks you off your feet and sometimes it just makes you want to bang your head against the wall. There is a distinct lack of consistency with LW content, and a full season rarely feels satisfying because its episodes don't go well together in regard of their quality: the writing (i.e., its presentation, dialogue, plot consistency etc.), story length, story missions and their level of challenge and innovation, cinematics, map content and design, as well as achievements.

    That's why I believe that Expansions are preferable: you have one team working on one, and as a result the elements all fit together and you get a full-fledged, (mostly) polished product. I don't mind waiting for expansions, the time in between could be filled with frequent Side Story releases (which are always tons of fun to do) instead of LW episodes. (Also, old content could use some polishing-up.)

    I would like ANet to reconsider their approach on the type of content they spend their resources on. In my honest opinion, Living World has proven to be a disappointment overall. You impatiently wait for the continuation of the story, don't know what to expect, and often end up feeling let down by the results of what, no doubt, was the fruit of hard labor on the devs' end. The rush in releasing episodes ASAP as well as the inconsistency due to different teams working on them does not seem to be a good utilization of said resources.

    I think part of that is honestly just because people are stretched too thin. I feel like season 3, while with a few questionable story choices, kept up a pretty steady and reliable pace and even if some of the maps had a bit more going for them than others, you weren't always left wondering... is it going to be 3 months this time? 4? 5? And you weren't as worried about situations like Kourna and Gandara where something is obviously holding them back internally from creating something that they probably envisioned to be a bit stronger. But, I think a lot of the issues this season have probably been to shift personnel around to some of these other projects due to them needing the extra help. It's obviously just speculative, and I think the episodes and maps this season are much larger and probably harder to fully flesh out in the amount of time they've given themselves.. but I think that's probably just due to either constant reshuffling of employees or just being generally understaffed.

    I've also noticed a huge difference between some of the living story teams in terms of what they put out. Istan and Jahai being done by presumably the same team for instance. Istan had not only a beautiful map but two large scale metas and quite a few side events, like the caravan escorts, Astralaria, and a few smaller events at Champion's Dawn. Even that map has an entire bottom layer behind the gate near the old city docks, and some of the assets under that are stunning but probably didn't quite get finished in time. I presume they were also potentially part of the lead-in to Farahnur. Really, impressive area that's completely closed off. But that's beside the point. Istan also had the Kralk ore weapon collections. Jahai, same team, had the Requiem armor collection, shatter meta, rift events, lots of other smaller events, AND Sun's Refuge. It was an extremely strong release with a lot packed into it. This team in general seems to me to have more experienced devs or just better time management as they seem to consistently produce lively maps with many events and added bonuses to without seeming to have to sacrifice anything or make any drastic cuts. Or perhaps just better direction in general in terms of what they want to put out.

    Now compare that to, Sandswept and Thunderhead, while Thunderhead has a weapon collection and two metas, it doesn't have much else. Sandswept had the golem backpack collection that was pretty bugged for awhile, but also had two metas.. and aside from that a few smaller events with interesting hearts but not much else going on with it. I think Thunderhead, interestingly enough, is the one release we've had so far that doesn't have any bounties. So it seems that this team, while delivering a decent product, makes a lot of decision calls on things to cut just to release what they do.

    Now, the weakest of the three, is Long Live the Lich, which.. released a mount and that's a huge thing.. but how much of the mount was done prior to that episode in an effort to give something to distract from the fact that while the story and the cinematics were well done, outside of hearts the map has little going on. A meta that seems like it wasn't quite finished and a map with a lot of wasted space. They did however do a very good story and cinematic, and perhaps some of the emphasis on that caused them to sacrifice some of the other aspects of the release. But both this team and team 2 seem to make quite a few probably tough decisions to cut certain things that it seems the first team doesn't have to.

    That being said, I'm trying to remember the order of releases for season 3 given that it's implied they are the same teams. We had, Bloodstone Fen & Lake Doric - team 1, Ember Bay & Draconis Mons - team 2, Bitterfrost & Siren's Bay - team 3. Bloodstone Fen and Lake Doric weren't exactly my favorite maps in terms of aesthetics, but they both are very lively with a lot of events. Ember Bay and Draconis Mons - not a huge fan of Ember Bay but Draconis Mons is a beautiful and very creative map. I personally found Draconis Mons to be a bit stronger release in terms of replayability. Both also have seemingly fewer engaging events, but on a much rapid timer.... especially the case with Ember Bay which might have too many going on at the same time. Now, Bitterfrost & Siren's Bay - these are probably two of my favorite maps of the season VISUALLY, but in terms of what they actually provide to the game and keeping people coming back.. it just isn't there. There are few events in each of them, no highly engaging metas outside of the Jormag attack event in Bitterfrost. The Kodan torch mastery was also pretty pointless, just as the turret functionality in Kourna was. It seems this team suffers a lot from having potentially neat ideas that just... don't wind up coming to life. I think this may just be a general lack of direction leading to time management issues.

    I'm not sure how relevant or truthful some of their previous remarks about how the teams are made up, or what the numbers are for each team nor number working on current content versus number working on expansion, but given they haven't announced, hinted, or confirmed an expansion is in the works recently, it leads me to believe that perhaps a lot of those people were moved onto one of the canceled projects, as well as perhaps some of the people on the living story teams. It's really hard to tell, but I think it's definitely impacted the releases this season, combined with the fact that some of the teams seem to just have a bit better time management or direction in general.

    So, that said, I don't think the delivery of content through living story is an issue, so much as it is resources and personnel being stretched to thin to deliver what they themselves probably want to deliver. I imagine it's probably pretty frustrating having this timeline over your head knowing that you'll have to constantly be weighing the significance of what you're working on and whether it will make it into the final pass. That's obviously the case for more than just these living story teams and this game company in general, but I think this season is more a reflection of some of these issues coming to light due to whatever internal struggle has been going on and far from being a reflection of the devs or the talent of those devs involved in said releases.

    And who knows what's going to happen now. If the teams remain this size and nothing changes, we just continue seeing this same pattern I would imagine. But if they wind up making decisions to remove or add people to certain teams, assuming there isn't an expansion team anymore, then we could potentially see a fiasco in the cadence with a long term benefit in what they release with living story episodes depending on if they rearrange the teams and give team 2 and 3 a bit better direction.

    I would emphasize the importance of transparency to us again, but I'm just not sure how much I would believe anyway so it may be pointless.

    The only way I could see them appeasing their current audience with the removal of living story releases is by doing a bunch of smaller scale and more frequent updates with current events akin to what we had with Caladbolg and shorter expansion releases, but even that I think would still leave people hungry for more. They'll never sate the appetite of the players of an mmo, but I think the current living story philosophy if refined and managed better could continue to suffice. It's just a matter of whether that delivery would suffice in place of an expansion, especially with the current teams assuming they are the only ones left actually working on new releases outside of the balance team and specific game modes like wvw/pvp/raids/fractals. All of which seem to be fairly small teams given the infrequency of related updates.

    I can understand wanting to diversify, but it seems a shame to jeopardize such a great game filled with extremely talented developers/artists/etc by devoting so many resources and time into mystery products that seem to just consume and never amount to anything.

    Really curious as to what those other projects were. I think it's assumed that at least one of them was mobile related given the slots they've been filling. But I also wonder, given their prior hesitation to visit Cantha, if one of the products was in fact an expansion and perhaps Canthan themed, and NCsoft West said--- nope... we told you not to do that so we're pulling it. I mean, I doubt it. I get the impression they weren't even Guild Wars 2 related, but it would suck if they were trying to give the players something they've been asking for for so long only to have some Korean based executive get offended due to "cultural misrepresentation" or some such. I also imagine that wouldn't be the case either, given that management at Arenanet wouldn't make a decision that risky. So just ignore all of that. Just a brief thought I probably should have kept to myself. :)

    I think season 3 also ran more smoothly due to story related issues. They all had smaller more contained plots with a larger overarching story. Whereas season 4 is so linear that if even one change is made, it's probably going to have a huge impact on the other teams. And while, for the most part, the story has been written well this season, I'm just not sure it's the right kind of format for this kind of content delivery. It's also one of the reasons I'm eager to move on from this plot in general, and hopefully one that ends on a much happier note than what we've been experiencing.

    All we can really do at this point is offer condolences to those affected by the lay-offs, express our concerns as consumers, use common sense to decipher what those concerns are and how to express them, and hope for a brighter future.

    To summarize, I'm sure it's overwhelming to the ones developing these living story releases, but I think it's less their fault or their incapability to deliver and more that they are trying to do the best with what they've got but somewhere up the chain decisions are being made that make it next to impossible. And in doing so, we as the community suffer, and they as artists and people most likely very passionate about what they create suffer just as much. It's a lose-lose, and I hope in light of recent events that this decision is beneficial to the overall state of the game as well as the devs which, while potentially riddled with low morale and doubt, finally get some of the direction or reinforcements they need.

  • Ashantara.8731Ashantara.8731 Member ✭✭✭✭
    edited February 24, 2019

    @cptaylor.2670:

    • Interesting collections don't make up for bad writing and lamely executed story missions. Metas don't, either.
    • As you speculate, the shuffling around employees between projects is certainly one of the biggest issues. Like I said, you need a steady team working on one whole story arc to wrap it up properly, not several different teams/people, resulting in huge gaps in the level of quality in all departments.
    • Yes, what you mentioned (Caladbolg) is exactly what I was talking about when I said "Side Stories." Those are such welcome diversions and add variety to the content, unlike the stale LW releases that are always done under the pressure of short deadlines with the result of always having content being cut, leading to the overall quality suffering from those cuts - sometimes more severely than others; check this out (and ignore the misandry).

    I really would love to see ANet refraining from further LW releases and instead focusing on Expansions, Side Stories and the polishing-up of old content that is either outdated, bugged or otherwise flawed.

  • Blocki.4931Blocki.4931 Member ✭✭✭✭

    What they should do is release some content in chunks DURING an episode, not release it all at once and then we have nothing for a while.

    Side stories would be perfect for this and I propose those be COMBINED with larger collections to get a true journey.

    The easiest way to do this would to simply swap people around a bit. What if instead of 3 living story teams we only have 2, but build a new team for side stories only. Those would usually be released 2 weeks after each episode, maybe each could have multiple stages that take a little time to unlock as well so that people don't just finish them day 1 again. That would make people not only wait for patch day + 1 or 2 days because of initial instabilities like lag or instances not loading, but also to the smaller side update that will help everybody feel more invested in the world.

    Bite me.

  • BlueJin.4127BlueJin.4127 Member ✭✭✭
    edited February 24, 2019

    I would love it if they went from LWS4 straight to an expansion, if only for the possibility that moving to another expansion would mean we no longer have to deal with the long aggro range of PoF and its LWS extensions. For me, this is the single most annoying issue for all of PoF and why I don’t do PoF stuff except when I have to.

    Other than that, I don’t really have a preference between an expansion and LWS, for now. Any decent developers that care about their products will do what they believe works best, instead of just rushing out expansions just so they can make more money. Anet isn’t Activision, so I have no doubt that their reason for going with LWS5 (instead of an expansion that would get them more money than LWS), is because they’re still working on ideas that would make the next release worthy of a full expansion.

    Making a good product isn’t easy. There are considerably more projects that never see the light of day than a project that gets an actual release. I’d rather not see Anet rush things.

    ^^

  • Ashantara.8731Ashantara.8731 Member ✭✭✭✭

    @BlueJin.4127 said:
    Any decent developers that care about their products will do what they believe works best, instead of just rushing out expansions just so they can make more money.

    But that is exactly my point: no rushing, taking their time instead. Delivering a full product, not fragments that barely fit together. And that only works with expansions, not with LW episodes.

  • maddoctor.2738maddoctor.2738 Member ✭✭✭✭

    Expansions have multiple problems over the Living World. First of all, the Living World provides content more often, and by giving these pieces of content, keep the game alive in-between expansions. Without the living world, the game would be populated for a month or two after an expansion release and then simply die until the next expansion is released. You could argue that without the Living World, we'd get expansions more often, but this would lead to the other important problem with expansions: they cost money. So unless they give some of these "expansions" for free, this wouldn't work very well for the game, it would make it more expensive to play, something that goes against the philosophy of the game.

  • Ashantara.8731Ashantara.8731 Member ✭✭✭✭
    edited February 24, 2019

    @maddoctor.2738 said:
    First of all, the Living World provides content more often, and by giving these pieces of content, keep the game alive in-between expansions. Without the living world, the game would be populated for a month or two after an expansion release and then simply die until the next expansion is released.

    Have you actually read my initial post? Side stories as frequent releases? Would provide a lot more fun and bring some diversity to the game, which LW episodes don't really do as they (mostly) poorly just drag on the same storyline.

    You could argue that without the Living World, we'd get expansions more often

    That was not my argument nor demand at all, rather the opposite (that they take their time and invest their resources into expansions and fill the time in between releases with side stories and polishing-up old content instead of releasing stale LW episodes). Please read what I initially wrote.

  • maddoctor.2738maddoctor.2738 Member ✭✭✭✭

    @Ashantara.8731 said:
    Have you actually read my initial post? Side stories as frequent releases? Would provide a lot more fun and bring some diversity to the game, which LW episodes don't really do as they (mostly) poorly just drag on the same storyline.

    Side stories will provide more fun than living world episodes? How is that going to work exactly? Instead of a 2-week content, how long will these "side stories" take to complete? Because our current side stories aren't very good at all. Also, how is the story of the Living World "the same storyline?" The living world seasons have a different story than the expansions and usually it leads to the next expansion, there is a build up. And you want to remove all that? For what? To have only some boring inconsequential storylines in-between expansions that barely affect the overall narrative of the game?

  • Ashantara.8731Ashantara.8731 Member ✭✭✭✭

    @maddoctor.2738 said:

    @Ashantara.8731 said:
    Have you actually read my initial post? Side stories as frequent releases? Would provide a lot more fun and bring some diversity to the game, which LW episodes don't really do as they (mostly) poorly just drag on the same storyline.

    Side stories will provide more fun than living world episodes?

    Yes, for the following reasons:

    • more frequent releases
    • concluded storyline
    • more diverse content
  • I agree completely about needing a conclusion. What bothers me the most is that they leave us hanging with no conclusion after the latest episode and we have to wait several months before we get any npc or whatever saying anything about it so we have to sit with the emotional baggage til the next living world update. Makes the timeline just feel kind of wonky.

  • Ashantara.8731Ashantara.8731 Member ✭✭✭✭
    edited February 25, 2019

    @Nox Noctis.7812 said:
    I agree completely about needing a conclusion. What bothers me the most is that they leave us hanging with no conclusion after the latest episode and we have to wait several months before we get any npc or whatever saying anything about it so we have to sit with the emotional baggage til the next living world update.

    While I don't feel any emotional baggage, I am just generally annoyed with the waiting time in story content and the fact that you would often get served an unsatisfactory continuation by what feels like the story being artificially dragged on further and further, in (sometimes) ridiculous ways nonetheless (see LWS3's Balthazar plot, and now S4 as well).

    I sometimes feel like watching "Lost", if you recall that television series. It would constantly bring up new questions rather than answering any, walking in all sorts of different directions only to keep the viewers wondering. These types of "plot devices" were used for years (only to come up with the lamest conclusion in the end, something that the majority of people were already guessing from the start). That's just bad writing.

    I hate the frequent use of "cliffhangers" only to drag the story on infinitely, like it's being done with the Elder Dragons storyline - almost feels like watching a daily soap opera à la "The Bold and The Beautiful" ("Lost", in its own way, was a soap opera too, only that it was aired weekly, not daily).

    Makes the timeline just feel kind of wonky.

    It does indeed.

  • JDub.1530JDub.1530 Member ✭✭✭

    You might not mind waiting between expansions, but other people do. GW2 lost a lot of players when Season 2 content went stale, even after HoT was announced. HoT brought people back, but after a few months when story had been done on multiple characters, achievements completed, legendaries crafted, guild halls upgraded, and no new content was on the horizon, people jumped ship. LW3 reignited the game.

    The side stories are nice nuggets of content, but they amount to a few added dynamic events and a few achievements. A dedicated completionist will burn through them in no time and vanish. Not to mention that all side stories have to be executed in existing maps, which both makes it feel like much shallower content, and quickly fills old maps with events that have to share space with the original story of those maps. A year of side stories will not keep people in game between expansion, imho.

    And will eliminating LW really fix the story issues you have? Expac stories are very condensed compared to a full LW season arc. They have to pack them into the boundaries of the expac and then bring them to a conclusion and then tie them to the next expac, since they would have restricted ability to tie together stories between expacs. That could result in very disjointed stories, instead of a more fluid single narrative.

    I don't know if the answer to the subjectively poor (or inconsistent) execution of LW releases is to remove them altogether.

  • Ashantara.8731Ashantara.8731 Member ✭✭✭✭
    edited February 25, 2019

    @JDub.1530 said:
    You might not mind waiting between expansions, but other people do. GW2 lost a lot of players when Season 2 content went stale, even after HoT was announced.

    Which is why I suggest frequent Side Story releases in between Expansions.

    The side stories are nice nuggets of content, but they amount to a few added dynamic events and a few achievements.

    It doesn't mean new Side Stories have to be like that, and if they are frequently released instead of LW episodes (i.e., a lot more frequently than LW episodes), it will make up for the difference in length.

    I mean, let's be honest: the last LW release took less than 2 hours to play through storywise and in regard of map completion. The story missions were super boring, the story was just aggrevating (because it brought nothing new, no progress, no real diversion from the stale main theme of Elder Dragons). I'd rather have side stories with different storylines, and adventure across maps and have fun and do different stuff, than wait for months only to be bored by a LW release like the last one, only to wait another couple of months after said 2 hours (with no guarantee that it will be worth the wait, which is why complete packages are preferable to episodes).

  • JDub.1530JDub.1530 Member ✭✭✭

    @Ashantara.8731 said:

    @JDub.1530 said:
    You might not mind waiting between expansions, but other people do. GW2 lost a lot of players when Season 2 content went stale, even after HoT was announced.

    Which is why I suggest frequent Side Story releases in between Expansions.

    The side stories are nice nuggets of content, but they amount to a few added dynamic events and a few achievements.

    It doesn't mean new Side Stories have to be like that, and if they are frequently released instead of LW episodes (i.e., a lot more frequently than LW episodes), it will make up for the difference in length.

    I mean, let's be honest: the last LW release took less than 2 hours to play through storywise and in regard of map completion. The story missions were super boring, the story was just aggrevating (because it brought nothing new, no progress, no real diversion from the stale main theme of Elder Dragons). I'd rather have side stories with different storylines, and adventure across maps and have fun and do different stuff, than wait for months only to be bored by a LW release like the last one, only to wait another couple of months after said 2 hours (with no guarantee that it will be worth the wait, which is why complete packages are preferable to episodes).

    I'm not sure how "frequent" it would need to be to hold onto the player base. Possibly every week or two. I don't know how much development time goes into the side stories, but putting them out "frequently" could result in the same workload as a LW episodes every few months, and then they've gained nothing in developer time for the expansions (this is all wild speculation, of course). Even moreso if you're implying making side stories more than just a few dynamic events and some achievements.

    Yes, running through story and map completion for LW is a 2-4hrs process for most. But different people have different opinions for how much content each release brings. There are a slew of new achievements and collections (Dragonsblood weapons, Requiem armor). Some people pass on that, so naturally releases will seem much smaller to them. I don't know that the side story model fixes any of the problems with story, developer time, or volume of content, it would just shift them to a new content model. But this is all hypothetical without any data or knowledge of ANet's developer effort for various types of content.

  • zealex.9410zealex.9410 Member ✭✭✭✭

    I like expansions because they usually tell a full story (a story i dont have to w8 a year plus to see on 3 month intervals) without ruining immersion and momentum with due to lw cadence. The non story content also drops in once breathing new life into the game every time a new one comes out, it also introduces new features which revoloutionise the game's world in some way.

    Finally its something im willing to pay for as in usually inclined to pay for substance rather than fluff and i consider what the gemstore offers to be fluff.

    That being said i think the posibility to see an new epansion in 2021-2022 has gone up considerably as i think anet was prob working on non gw2, or rather non expansion related projects internally before the layoffs.

  • zealex.9410zealex.9410 Member ✭✭✭✭

    @maddoctor.2738 said:

    @Ashantara.8731 said:
    Have you actually read my initial post? Side stories as frequent releases? Would provide a lot more fun and bring some diversity to the game, which LW episodes don't really do as they (mostly) poorly just drag on the same storyline.

    Side stories will provide more fun than living world episodes? How is that going to work exactly? Instead of a 2-week content, how long will these "side stories" take to complete? Because our current side stories aren't very good at all. Also, how is the story of the Living World "the same storyline?" The living world seasons have a different story than the expansions and usually it leads to the next expansion, there is a build up. And you want to remove all that? For what? To have only some boring inconsequential storylines in-between expansions that barely affect the overall narrative of the game?

    2-week content? Are we talking about the same lw updates?

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